No-Bake Peanut Butter Balls

No-Bake Peanut Butter Balls - Plowing Forward

One of my favorite memories in life is making peanut butter balls with my mom and siblings.  These (and chocolate chip cookies) were our ‘go to’ activity when we got bored and hungry.

We used to make them for after school snacks back in the day and stuff them into our mouths as quickly as we made them.  We would attempt to make the biggest peanut butter ball ever. We would see how many tiny balls we could make with one batch.  These things are awesome.

Peanut butter-aholics will cheers me on this one.  These delicious little balls of pea-nutty perfection aren’t even that bad for you!

No Bake Peanut Butter Balls - Plowing Forward

The most fun thing about peanut butter balls is being creative with the surprise filling and the outer ingredient you roll them in.  The sky is the limit!

Begin by adding honey, peanut butter and dry powdered milk to a bowl.  A tip here lightly dust the measuring cup for the honey with non-stick spray.   It makes the honey pour right out of the cup, instead of fighting it out with a spatula scrape-by-scrape.

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Once the ingredients are mixed, take a few tablespoons of the dough and form it into a rough ball. Use your fingers to make a well and add some M&M’s (these are mini ones), raisins, chocolate chips…you name it!

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Carefully close the dough around the filling and roll it into a ball.

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Have a bowl of something crunchy ready to roll them in.  We used to use wheat germ growing up, but now I use crushed up cereal (any rice cereal works well) or -for extra excitement- sprinkles!  PBB6

You could also use finely crushed up peanuts for an extra nutty layer.  Basically, you want to roll them in anything that will keep your fingers from getting sticky when you pick them up.

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They are good to eat right away, or store in the refrigerator to let them harden slightly.

If you’re pregnant, these would be a simple but fun way to do a gender reveal…just fill the middle with pink or blue M&Ms!  So much easier than making cupcakes.

Make these for after-school snacks, packing lunches or you could even make some fancy looking ones for party snacking.  You’ll be instantly popular (as if you aren’t already). 😉

Happy snacking!!

*nom*nom*nom*

Pizza Sandwich

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Hi.  My name is Jenny and I enjoy food that tastes good in a hurry.

I was blessed with a Cuisnart Panini maker for Mother’s Day and I’ve been using it like crazy for the past few weeks.  Having such a fancy new tool in my arsenal of kitchen stuff  make’s me feel almost illegally happy.

…but that doesn’t take much!

I can’t say I invented this pizza sandwich, but I’m proud to brag that it came to me in a moment of “Oh Crap, what is my 2 year old going to eat for dinner.”  Running out of nuggets was a blessing in disguise…now these sandwiches are requested more than anything else (“Pizza Sandwich, Mom! Pweeeeeees!!”).

Disclaimer: This is not fancy.  This is not special.  This is only super yummy and easy.  I make them for myself frequently.

This sandwich takes only about 8 minutes to make

  • While your panini grill is firing up, get out 2 pieces of bread, mozzarella (shredded or otherwise) and some pizza or marinara sauce.
  • Sauce both faces of the bread liberally.
  • Add a pile of cheese (and any toppings)
  • Assemble sandwich and place in panini maker.
  • Cook for 4-6 minutes (until cheese is melted and starting to ooze out).
  • Eat….and realize how freaking awesome 3 little ingredients can be!  For the visual learners, here’s a photo tutorial.  Scroll to the bottom for a few tips!

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Tips on making the perfect pizza sandwich:

1) DO NOT butter the outsides of the bread (one of the very few things in life that butter does not improve).  It took me many paninis to realize the sogginess was a result of buttering the bread.  Lightly dust the panini plates with some cooking spray, if desired.

2) Use bakery fresh bread.  Makes all the difference.

3) A sprinkle of Italian seasonings on the cheese tastes great.

4) If making for kids, this is a great one to sneak a few spinach leaves into.  They’ll never know!

5)Let your panini get screaming hot first.  Otherwise the bread won’t have that crunch.

What are the tried-and-trusted sandwiches in your home??

 

Easy and Impressive Stuffed Brownies

It’s snowing outside.  I was panicked about what to do yesterday with a squirrelly 2 year old, so we baked these:OreoBrownies1

 

Yes…its snowing so we baked.  And Yes, it’s May 3rd and there is a blizzard going on.  We are having the most bizarre weather here in Iowa!!  This is what we were doing on Monday (normal for this time of year)…

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And this is what it looks like outside today…

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I am regretful about jumping the gun and planting my garden last weekend when it was 75 degrees and sunny, but luckily I have a raised garden bed that can be moved into the garage for such strange occasions.  My herbs are very sad without sunshine!  And so am I…and so are my kids.  Just when I thought cabin fever was clear for take off, it’s back in full force.

So, I bake.

And I thank the blogging gods for Sally.

Just when I get bored with a recipe, she swoops in with a tastey twist on something simple and it makes my day.  She posted these brownies a while back.  Her method : put Oreo’s inside your brownies before you bake them (she added frosting, too, but I left that out).OreoBrownies2

 

Do you have a box of brownie mix?  Do you have 12 oreos?  Then make these.  Now.  It’s easy!

  • After you make the batter, pour half into your prepared pan.
  • Add a layer of Oreo’s.
  • Cover with the rest of the batter.
  • Bake.

Easy and they impress your friends (just don’t tell them how easy they are).  OreoBrownies3

 

The cookies get really soft and fudge-like as the brownies bake.  The brownies come out fudgy as can be and the cookies add another dimension to the already delicious chocolate flavor.  You could also do a homemade brownie recipe with these if you have guilt about using a box mix, but over achieving is hardly in my vocabulary lately!

Quick and Easy Breakfast Sandwich – No pan needed!

So there is nothing ‘ultimate’ or totally-over-the-top-amazing about this sandwich.  But, it’s quick, it’s easy and it’s really tasty, if you enjoy simple things like melted cheese.  It seems like we have been so busy lately that breakfasts have become pretty lack luster.  That’s why this little sandwich has been showing up at the table in our house.  Super simple…here we go.

You’ll Need:

1 egg

1 tsp milk (preferably not skim)

slight dash of Lawry’s Seasonings

1 piece of American Cheese

1 English Muffin

Butter (for your muffin)

Begin by combining the egg, milk and Lawry’s in a small bowl and scramble them up.

Spray a small ramekin with non-stick cooking spray.

 

Pour the egg mixture into the ramekin.

 

Place the ramekin in the microwave for 30-40 seconds or until the egg is fully cooked.  You’ll have to experiment with exact times…my microwave does it perfectly in 38 seconds, but yours may be different.  It will blow up huge, like a marshmallow during the cooking process, don’t be scared (or grossed out)…it’ll be yummy.  It should look like this when it’s done.

Place the egg on your toasted and buttered english muffin and slap a piece of cheese  on it…good to go (I recommend not burning your muffin like I did on this sandwich)!

 

Here are some variations for this with this handy breakfast that are also quite good:

Add a few small bits of feta to your egg before cooking and add a slice of tomato to the sandwich.

Add bacon, sausage or ham to make it a ‘proper’ breakfast sandwich.

Use a bagel or toast instead of an English muffin.

Get crazy and make yourself a personalized sandwich…and relish in the fact that you don’t have to clean a pan afterwards!

 

Cheater Cheater Chicken Dinner

Itchy horses helping each other scratch off their shedding winter coats. Note the green grass!

Truth: I don’t cook amazing meals every night (please act surprised). I love concocting serious dishes with fancy ingredients and long winded names from time to time, but more often that not, I don’t.  Example: Last night I much preferred sharing a beer outside with JJ and our buddy Troy over making a mess in the kitchen.  It was too nice outside and Evan was having fun throwing rocks at plants (we have our priorities).  Plus, I had spent the majority of both Evan’s nap times scrubbing and re-sealing the grout in our kitchen, so I had reached my ‘kitchen quota’ for the day (*side note* White grout is awful.  It shows dirt and stains like crazy and doesn’t hold up.  Avoid it if you’re re-flooring high traffic areas).

 

This super easy ‘cheater’ dish got nominated for our consumption last night. I make it from time to time when I don’t feel like spending more than 15 minutes in the kitchen.  I call it Cheater Cheater Chicken Dinner.  If you can boil water and melt cheese, you can make this dish. Basically, it’s a loose spin on Chicken Parmesan.  Here’s what you’ll need:

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can diced tomatoes

1 jar pasta sauce

4-6 frozen, breaded chicken patties

sliced mozzarella cheese (enough to cover your chicken)

1 box of pasta, cooked (your choice on the noodle shape)

Optional: Italian seasonings, 1/4 cup white wine

Heat a large skillet with the olive oil and add the garlic.

Then add the tomatoes, juice and all.

And now the jar of sauce.  If you have some one hand, feel free to add any spices/herbs you wish. Or throw in about 1/4 cup white wine.  Or, leave it be…which is what I did.  Let’s not over complicate things today.  Turn the skillet down to low.

Cook your chicken patties in the oven, according to the instructions on the bag.

Cut up your mozzarella.

When the chicken is cooked, add the cheese to the chicken and pop it back in the oven until melted (about 2-3 minutes).

Place the chicken over pasta in a bowl (or a plate, if you are that type of person) and cover with sauce.

Not bad for a 15 minute supper!

Simply Delicious Pizza Crust

Growing up, my family had a weekly Pizza Night.  I’m pretty sure most families do this on some level…or at least most families in our neck of the woods (but, then again, we also tell jokes at Halloween instead of just saying “Trick or Treat”…midwesterners are special).  We used to sit around a big, colorful blanket that my mom would lay out on the family room floor, gorge ourselves on take out pizza, drink our milk and relish in the entertainment value of TGIF television.  An indoor picnic party every Friday night. *Sigh* Those were some fun times.  I love my siblings.

But I digress!  I was prompted to start our own Pizza Night a while ago when JJ began taking night classes, mandating an easy couch-worthy meal for the two of us.  And, being that the nearest pizza place is 15 minutes away, and is a Pizza Hut – which has become rather gross lately – I’ve been working hard on my homemade pizza making skills.  They are getting pretty good (I brag).

I’ve always followed the recipe for Valentino’s Pizza Crust.  It’s easy and almost completely fail proof.  But, it’s a little bland if you follow it strictly.  So, I’ve adapted it slightly and found a few tricks that make it extra ‘real nice’, as I like to say.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon pizza seasonings
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Begin by adding the yeast and sugar to the warm water.  Let it set up for 5-10 minutes – until it begins to get foamy.

Once things are moving and grooving, add the olive oil, pizza seasonings and garlic salt.  I use Presti’s Spicy Pizza Seasoing.  No idea what’s in there, but it’s yummy…and not spicy at all.

Give that mixture a brief stir, then mix in the flour.  If it seems too sticky, add a little more flour.  It should be slightly sticky, but not difficult to manage.  Knead it for a few minutes, just to get the ingredients mixed.

The original recipe says it only needs 10 minutes to rise.  I’ve found that letting it have anywhere from 1-4 hours is best.  Good things take time…but this recipe is totally rush-able if you’ve only got 10 minutes to wait.

Once you’re ready to cook, simply roll out the pizza (no need to be perfectly round, unless you are biased against crazy shaped pizzas), add your topings and bake for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees.   2 important tips here that really improve your ‘za:

1. Use cornmeal instead of flour to roll out the pizza.

2. Always bake on a pizza stone that has been thoroughly preheated (otherwise your crust will stick and not become crunchy).

Now the only hard part is deciding what toppings you want to throw on your pie.  Decisions, decisions…